Obama’s ed budget a tough sell on Capitol Hill

Some examples of cuts state legislators are weighing:

  • In Colorado, Gov. John Hickenlooper has proposed cutting $375 million from education spending on public schools, or about $500 per student. Legislative economists have said the state could face a shortfall of at least $1 billion due to loss of federal money, higher demand for services like Medicaid and inflation.
  • In New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s budget request proposes a historic 7.3 percent cut to school aid. Advocates say it will lead to thousands of teacher layoffs and larger class sizes.
  • In Iowa, legislators are considering cutting the state’s preschool program spending from $70 million annually to $43 million. The program currently provides early education in 90 percent of the state’s school districts. The state is facing a budget shortfall of up to $700 million for the upcoming fiscal year.

Analysts say a modest increase in education spending at the federal level would be dwarfed by state cuts.

“It doesn’t match the magnitude of what’s really happening on the ground out there,” said Michael Petrilli, vice president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, an education think tank, said of the president’s budget request. “That we’re seeing the biggest decreases in education spending since the Great Depression.”

Education Secretary Arne Duncan acknowledged it would be a difficult year.

“There’s no question these are some of the toughest budget times we’ve seen in decades,” Duncan said. “We’ve called this the new normal. What we’re asking them to do as much as possible is see a very tough time as an opportunity.”

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